Residents concerned about ballot application errors

by Terry Rogers

Over the past few weeks, the State of Delaware began mailing out applications for mail-in ballots ahead of the September primary. An additional application will be mailed to all registered voters prior to the General Election in November. Delaware approved mail-in voting amidst concerns that in-person voting could be too dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several local residents have reported problems with the applications they received in the mail.

“My father received my husband’s [ballot]. Dad’s wife received his. My husband received a friend down the street,” Lori Bradley Turner of Milford said. “The envelope did not match the application inside.” Bob Roth, of Frederica, stated that he received two applications, both addressed to him.

According to the Department of Elections, anyone who receives an application for a mail-in ballot that is addressed incorrectly, whether it is sent for someone who has passed away, who used to live at the address or multiple ballots for one person coming to their address, should note on the envelope what is incorrect, such as “deceased” or “no longer at this address” and return it to the Department of Elections. This will allow the department to correct its database and prevent added mailings.

“We have checks and balances in place to be sure that no one is able to vote more than once,” Catherine Sheehan, Administrative Assistant in the Office of the State Election Commissioner, said. “Each application received is checked against voter registration records to verify accuracy and any anomalies are reviewed by experienced managers to resolve any issues. Also, the systems used by the Department of Elections include safeguards that never permit more than one ballot for an election to be active for a voter at any time.”

A voter portal has been created at https://ivote.de.gov that will allow anyone to check the status of their ballot and be sure it is received by the election office. Sheehan also explained that mail-in voters can call the county elections office to find out the status of the ballot. In order to be counted in either the Primary or General Election, mail-in ballots must arrive at the elections office prior to the close of polls on election day. For this reason, the last day to mail ballots for the Primary is Friday, September 11 and for the General Election, Friday, October 30. Ballots may be dropped off at the county elections office on Election Day but must arrive no later than 8 PM. A secure ballot drop box will be provided in each county elections office.

“If a mail-in ballot does not arrive in time, a voter may go to the polls to vote in person,” Sheehan explained. “At the polling place, the poll books used to check voters will include information on vote by mail and absentee ballots. If a voter has received and has not yet returned their ballot, or has returned it and the Department of Elections has not yet received it, poll workers are instructed to contact the appropriate elections county office. In these cases, the ballot may be voided, and the voter will be permitted to vote at the polling place. Once voided, a vote by mail or absentee ballot, if received after that point, it will not be counted. If a voter has returned their vote by mail or absentee ballot and the elections office has received it, the voter will not be permitted to vote at the polling place.”

Sheehan explained that it should not take longer to tally mail-in ballots as the legislation that allowed for mail-in voting permits the elections office to prepare ballots for tabulation up to 30 days before the election to avoid delays in reporting unofficial results on Election Day.

“The Vote-By-Mail process was created legislative action,” Sheehan said. “We will not have a final cost until we know how many voters utilize vote by mail. Costs for the vote by mail program will be covered via the federal CARES Act funds awarded to the state for elections, dedicated to increased costs and adjustments needed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For more information, voters may call the election office in their county. New Castle can be reached by calling 302-577-3464, Kent County by calling 302-739-4498 and Sussex County by calling 302-856-5367.

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